Stop Talking, Start Communicating – Four Tips for Delivering Bad News

I’ve always been a fan of the popular Business books, particularly the ones that focus on professional development. Stop Talking, Start Communicating is a new title that can help you deal with delivering bad new. According to the author, leaders and otherwise successful people will go to great lengths to avoid doing this. For example, you might tolerate a longstanding, but mediocre, vendor instead of giving the contract to another company. Or maybe you make excuses to hold on to an underperforming employee.

stop talking

Good news though, as the book outlines some strategies to help you deal with these conversations more promptly and successfully. Four important tips shared include:

1. Get to the core of the matter. When you were writing essays in high school, dredging up a thesis statement may have made you feel like banging your head against your desk. Even now, coming up with the perfect hook to put into a business proposal for a potential client can take hours of your time. But according to Tumlin, determining your core message will be surprisingly easy when it comes to delivering bad news.

2. Stick to your guns. Determining your core message was the easy part. You may not find the remainder of your task as simple. Think back to the tough conversations you’ve had in the past: Have you ever been talked out of your decision by the other person (“But we’ve worked together for fifteen years—you’re not really letting me go, are you?”)

3. Explain yourself (but not too much). It’s important to make sure that the other party understands your bad news message and doesn’t walk away with the wrong impression. For instance: “We have to let you go because we’re bringing on someone with a different skill set.” “We’re switching vendors because we need different service schedules.” “I think we should stop seeing each other because we’re both miserable.”

4. Get out. (Of the conversation, that is.) If you’ve communicated your core message, and the other person understands, it’s probably acceptable to start thinking about an exit. Naturally, you should address any obvious questions (like “Do we keep making deliveries this week?” “When’s my last day?” “Who keeps the cat?”), but be wary of answering too many speculative or probing questions.

For more info see: Stop Talking, Start Communicating: Counterintuitive Secrets to Success in Business and in Life (McGraw-Hill, August 2013, ISBN: 978-0-0718130-4-4, $20.00, www.tumlin.com).

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